New USB-C authentication spec protects against malware and shoddy chargers

Soon your device will be able to tell you whether you should avoid using a USB-C cable or charger.

The battle against “bad” USB Type-C cables has a new ally: The USB 3.0 Promoters Group. The coalition—made up of tech company heavyweights including HP, Intel, and Microsoft—announced the USB Type-C Authentication specification on Tuesday. The new spec will allow devices to confirm the integrity of a USB-C charger, cable, or device before allowing data or significant power to run through it.

The new capability lets a device check a variety of items about a charger or cable’s credentials, including its descriptor, capabilities, and certification status. The process will use 128-bit cryptographic signatures for authentication.

Protecting against inappropriately designed USB chargers is only one focus of the new specification. It’s also meant to protect against malicious hardware or software attempting to deliver an exploit via USB.

It’s not clear when we can expect device and peripheral makers to start building the authentication into their products. Once it is running, the USB 3.0 Promoters Group imagines a number of scenarios where the new specification will come in handy.

If you’re concerned about charging your phone at a public terminal, for example, your handset can be set to only allow power from certified chargers. Or, an IT department could use the technology to allow only verified USB storage devices to interface with company PCs.

The story behind the story: The new authentication specification comes several months after Google engineer Benson Leung began fighting against shoddy USB-C cables. Since November, Leung has been reviewing Type-C USB cables—including Type-A to Type-C—and calling out those that aren’t up to “code” and have the potential to harm your device. In late March, Amazon also joined the fight by blacklisting non-compliant USB-C cables. Now with the new authentication specification, it should become even easier to avoid poorly developed cables that have the potential to harm your gear.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftintelUSB-C

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?